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Diablo Cody on ''heroine chic''

Ellen Ripley. Andie Walsh. Dorothy in ”Oz.” All badass pop-cult ladies — and none of them too cool to show they cared about their look

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Diablo Cody on ”heroine chic”

Call your bookie — I actually made it to Column #2. But before I subject you to a second dose of ham-fisted criticism, I need to bitch about my face: Direct your gaze, if you will, to the illustration (or ”illo,” as they say in the publishing game) in the center of this page. That black-lipped, beady-eyed ghoul is supposed to be me! Now, I’m hardly the cutest columnist to occupy this space, but I had no idea I resembled a tubercular Friar Tuck with sperm for eyebrows. You hear that whistling sound? That’s my self-esteem plummeting from ”obscene” to ”healthy.” Perhaps this is EW’s concession to readers who complain that Stephen King’s column isn’t scary.

Of course, by caring about this unflattering likeness, I’m bolstering the stereotype that women are vain, neurotic creatures. This is conflicting; as a writer, I hope to craft female characters who are tough, gutsy, and cocksure. Women with brio and spunk. In other words, women who probably wouldn’t care if their column illustration resembled Victorian corpse portraiture. And yet, some of the strongest ladies in the pop-cult canon have endeared themselves to us because of their vulnerability and, yes, even their vanity. Remember when Angela on My So-Called Life spent an entire episode stressing about a zit even as her relationship with Sharon Cherski imploded? Angela wasn’t shallow — hell, she wore more flannel than Dinosaur Jr. — but she knew that a clogged sebaceous gland can be even more traumatic than a girly meltdown.

In fact, there are plenty of killer onscreen heroines who weren’t too cool to care about their hair, complexion, or wardrobe. I mean, why not reapply the ol’ lip gloss before busting that villain or solving that theorem? Since when is a dab of beeswax a concession to the patriarchy? Here’s a list of my favorites:

Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley, Alien
Don’t try and convince me that those flattering cotton panties are a coincidence. They cradle Ripley’s buttocks perfectly even in the most physically grueling situations. Either the ship has an ample supply of double-stick tape, or Sigourney Weaver possesses the world’s only wedgie-resistant ass. (You know if they remade this movie today, Ripley would swap her sensible briefs for a thong. And instead of emerging from a hypersleep capsule, she’d step out of a Mystic Tan booth.)

Andie Walsh, Pretty in Pink
Everyone’s favorite proto-indie-rock chick has a perfectly nice vintage prom dress — but nooo, that isn’t enough. Our girl puts scissors to fabric and transforms that poor dress into a hideous pink rectangle. I mean, it looks like a hooker’s pillow sham. Modern viewers agree that Andie looks ridiculous, but the soaring OMD soundtrack — and Andrew McCarthy’s dumb, adoring gaze — insist otherwise. Sure, Andie doesn’t slay any monsters, but isn’t James Spader creepy?

NEXT PAGE: Laurie of Halloween, Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, and Nancy of Elm Street earn their places among the Heroine Chic

Laurie Strode, Halloween
Jamie Lee Curtis plays the toughest babysitter this side of the hedge. And yet, at one point Laurie wonders aloud if she’s too smart for the boy she likes. It’s a surprisingly sweet moment in a film that otherwise coaxes us to identify with a psycho. Memo to Laurie: You’re totally hot, albeit in a nerdy kind of way. And besides, it’s Halloween in the ’70s — if you feel ugly, you can always put on a Donny Osmond mask or something.

Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz
Let’s say you’ve just traveled to another dimension, faced down an evil witch, survived an attack by humanoid apple trees, and OD’d on poppy fumes. What do you do next? Why, hit the spa, of course! In one of the weirdest makeover montages ever, Dorothy even requests that they ”dye [her] eyes” to match her blue gingham dress — how very Paris Hilton. (Unrelated: How homoerotic is that shot of the Tin Man getting ”buffed” by a crew of enthusiastic guys?)

Nancy Thompson, A Nightmare on Elm Street
Admit it: If Johnny Depp was your neighbor, you know you’d make sure your hair looked its fluffiest too. Also, Nancy gets points for rocking jammies and dark under-eye circles — and long before rehab chic was hip.

”Uncle” Jesse Katsopolis, Full House
Not technically a woman, but his addiction to mousse and gender-ambiguous name make him eligible by, uh, a hair. However, Jesse never let his styling routine interfere with his ability to write awesome jingles, bust D.J. for sneaking out, or console whichever Olsen twin they used for the crying scenes. (Memo to casual Full House viewers: Please stop referring to Joey Gladstone as ”Uncle Joey” in your ironic convos. He wasn’t their uncle. Thank you.)

So you see, it’s possible to be the tiniest bit insecure while still maintaining badass cred. At least I like to think it is. All right, that’s enough brain activity for now. I’d better go fix my hair before someone mistakes me for my illustration.